How Smooth Is Your Supply Chain?

Purchasing manager at Wilson Process Systems (WPS), Nigel Starkey, examines the key factors in establishing and maintaining a smooth running supply chain.

Purchasing manager at WPS, Nigel Starkey

Having joined contrast electronics manufacturer, Wilson Process Systems, in 2010 to head-up the procurement team, Nigel Starkey reflects on his achievements and the challenges he faced along the way.

He explained: "From a purchasing manager's perspective, I recognise how critical it is to support our production department. Having material consistently available allows them to plan and achieve customers' target delivery dates, while helping to keep the production lines at their optimal output. With two store locations, four store personnel and a three-strong procurement team, this is a demanding role, which relies on having the right suppliers in place.

"In order to achieve this we are constantly seeking the most appropriate and effective sources of supply. We do this by following rigorous procurement processes to develop strong and open relationships with a rationalised base of quality suppliers. Working closely with our suppliers ensures that we are kept up to date with market trends and product developments, which provides continued improvement in terms of value and quality."

Demand Quality

Nigel further emphasised the importance of maintaining quality, saying: "As a CEM with a significant spend, we are responsible for procuring a vast array of components. Part of our sourcing strategy is therefore to ensure that our entire component inventory is sourced through traceable franchise routes. Many of our suppliers will hold strategic buffer stocks for long lead-time and sole source components. This in turn minimises risk and ensures continuity of supply.

"We continually monitor the performance of our key suppliers, working with our quality department to carry our regular assessment. This is a thorough qualification process which will capture any changes such as company structure, turnover, customer base, financial strength, organisational responsibility and key personnel. Codes of conduct and ethics policies and supply chain contingency planning are also taken into account.

"Our procurement team embraces a strategy of continuous improvement both within WPS and throughout the supply chain. Working to a strict purchasing practice results in the most appropriate supplier selection, best value, quality and component lead time management, which are all paramount for the success of any project. Our software system enables us to quickly and accurately implement new customer bills of materials, set up and cross refer customer internal part numbers. This delivers a seamless transition of procurement and gives us a competitive advantage. We aim to meet and exceed customers' expectations in terms of target delivery dates for new and existing products."

Expect Flexibility

Sales manager at WPS. Steve Cooke, added: "From a sales point of view, having the right suppliers on board is essential, however it's just as important to have the right relationships in place with suppliers who understand the need for manoeuvrability in meeting customers' changing requirements.

"Increased flexibility, or being creative regarding procurement and inventory management, is in most cases an essential part in securing any new customer. Being finically strong and supported by the right supply chain partners plays a major part when offering the customers a material solution that fits their own company strategy. In fact, our purchasing department's ability to consistently manage the transition of material to the production lines has helped maintain, and in some cases increased, our competitiveness."